Just who is it targeting, President Donald Trump’s assault on immigration?

At first, it was supposed to be about Mexican “rapists” and Middle Eastern “terrorists,” brought forth as bogeymen to justify a full wall along our southwestern border and a complete ban on travel from Muslim-majority countries.

When a real crisis emerged, it wasn’t from people who meant us harm, but Central Americans fleeing poverty, corruption and violence. To the president and his people, these families became “hordes” of “invaders” and “animals” — the kind of rhetoric that has been used to dehumanize others for centuries.

The face of this “invasion” weren’t gang members — as much as the administration want them to be — but the nearly 3,000 children who were taken, through force and subterfuge, from their parents once in the custody of the country they thought of as a place of justice and refuge.

After crossing the Rio Grande from Mexico into the United States, Karla Yadira Rivera, 36, cries as she walks to Border Patrol agents with her daughters Karla, 11, Andrea, 12, and Emilia, 17, in El Paso, Texas, on June 13. Carolyn Van Houten/The Washington Post

It took a court order, but most of the children have been returned. However, some will likely never see their parents again. All are left scarred.

Now the Trump administration wants to make sure more children face trauma at the hands of the U.S. government. Homeland Security officials last week announced its intention to end the Flores agreement, a 22-year-old court agreement that limits how long immigrant children can be detained.


The Trump administration wants to detain immigrant children and their families indefinitely, for months, until their asylum cases are completed.

They say it’s necessary in order to deter others from making the trip, though deterrence of that kind hasn’t worked yet — and the president has cut dramatically the aid sent to Central America to improve conditions there so they don’t have to flee.

They say it’s necessary, too, to protect the children of migrants from the perilous trip north. However, once here those children have been subjected to inhumane detention by federal authorities. They’ve been taken from their families and left in the dark on their status. They’ve been denied soap, toothbrushes and bedding through long periods of cold confinement.

Last week, the Trump administration said it can’t be bothered to run a flu vaccination program at the detention centers. In the last year, at least seven migrant children in U.S. custody have died, at least three from the flu, after none died in the previous decade.

Finally, they say it’s about stopping illegal immigration, though the migrants along the border are asylum seekers following a lawful process, as are the refugees who have been denied a spot here under Trump’s restrictions on refugee resettlement.

As are the green card applicants — the immigrants long applauded for “following the rules” — who now face long delays purposely put in place, or who can now be penalized for seeking government assistance for food and health care for their families.

No, it is not criminals that are being hurt by Trump’s cruel policies and rhetoric on immigration.

Instead, it is people in dire circumstances with no good choices who are bearing the brunt, along with their children, who through no fault of their own find themselves targets for cruelty — based on orders from the president of the United States.


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